Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Reading The Unseen Realm by Michael Heiser #1

HeiserMy Old Testament devotional postings for 2017-18 will take a little bit different direction. I will be reading through some OT theologies, devotionals and other interesting OT themed books. I am starting with The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, by Michael S. Heiser. I think this is a very important book with an important message for anyone who teaches or wants to learn what the Bible is all about. We will start with the first two chapters of the book which lay out the hermeneutic ground rules for his biblical theology. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below. I am using the Kindle version of the book.…

The purpose of this book is to look at the "unseen realm," the spirit world, as it is seen in the Bible, apart from modern approaches, and as it would have been understood by its original ancient audience. The first short introductory chapter, Reading Your Bible Again- For the First Time, relates the "watershed moment" for the author when he realized that Psalm 82 taught that there was a heavenly "Divine Council" of supernatural beings that were under God's judgment for mismanaging the nations. This blew apart his rationalistic understanding of the text and drove him to try to understand the OT in its original cultural and literary contexts. Thus, the main point of the book is to get the reader to interpret the Bible in the context of its ancient supernatural worldview. I agree that this is critical. My experience as a missionary is that the unseen spirit realm affected my ministry regularly, as it does in the biblical narrative, and yet Western Christians tend to act as though this realm does not exist. This is why I chose to blog through this book.

A theology of the unseen world that derives exclusively from the text understood through the lens of the ancient, premodern worldview of the authors informs every Bible doctrine in significant ways...What you’ll read in this book will change you. You’ll never be able to look at your Bible the same way again. 13

Seeing the Bible through the eyes of an ancient reader requires shedding the filters of our traditions and presumptions. They processed life in supernatural terms. Today’s Christian processes it by a mixture of creedal statements and modern rationalism. I want to help you recover the supernatural worldview of the biblical writers— the people who produced the Bible. 13

The second chapter of the book, Rules of Engagement, lays out the principles by which Heiser interprets and correlates scripture, his hermeneutic. He says that we tend to interpret scripture with filters, by which we understand it, but our modern filters keep us from understanding scripture as it was originally intended. We tend to filter out verses that don't fit our overall worldview, which means that we rationalistic moderns tend to filter out things that are supernatural and weird, or that don't fit with our preferred systematic theology. Instead we need to read scripture as a mosaic, in which ALL the parts, which may not make sense by themselves, put together provide the unifying meaning, a complete biblical theology. Tradition is important, but we need to read the Bible with our traditions, not under them. It is more important to interpret the Bible according to its own cultural, literary, and historical context and then adjust our overall theologies accordingly, in concert with others in the body of Christ who are doing the same thing. I have the same concern as Heiser: that we restore the supernatural worldview of scripture and re-open ourselves to the unseen world, our interaction with it, and miracles. If we really believe in a Triune God, virgin birth, and bodily resurrection already, why not? 

Psalm 82 has at its core the unseen realm and its interaction with the human world. And that psalm isn’t the only piece like that; there are lots of them. In fact, the intersection of our domain and the unseen world— which includes the triune God, but also a much more numerous cast— is at the heart of biblical theology. 15

Modern Christianity’s view of the unseen world isn’t framed by the ancient worldview of the biblical writers. One segment wrongly consigns the invisible realm to the periphery of theological discussion. The other is so busy seeking some interaction with it that it has become unconcerned with its biblical moorings, resulting in a caricature. 17

My main contribution is synthesis of the ideas and articulating a biblical theology not derived from tradition but rather framed exclusively in the context of the Bible’s own ancient worldview. 20

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